There is a reason why pro athletes and everyday gym-goers are welcoming high-intensity interval training (HIIT) with open arms. HIIT can provide great cardiovascular and overall health benefit without spending extensive periods of time in the gym. Not only that, HIIT can be done virtually anywhere with minimal to no equipment. It has taken the fitness world by storm over the past few decades, but what exactly do we need to know about it? What is all the hype surrounding it? And why should we be incorporating it into our fitness routines? Let’s take a look and see.
What is HIIT?
If you aren’t already familiar with the concept, simply put, HIIT workouts are designed to raise one’s heart rate with bursts of intense exercise (often maximal effort) followed by shorter durations of lower intensity activity . A standard HIIT workout might include activity of between 15 seconds to 4 minutes in duration (depending) at 80-90% of one’s maximum heart rate, followed by a period of activity that is around 40-50% of one’s maximum heart rate – this recovery period is known as active recovery. The amount of active recovery needed will depend of your current fitness level – but generally these periods are longer than the initial high intensity burst. This cycle would then be repeated several times, for a total of between 10-40 minutes per session. For example, you could do a 30 second sprint, followed by a one minute jog and then repeat this cycle several times. Over time, as you progress, you may find that you can extend the high intensity period and/or reduce the active recovery period – you may then be able to move to 45 second sprints, followed by a 45 second jog (active recovery) and so forth.
The pros – Benefits of HIIT
- It’s time efficient
HIIT helps take the lag out of going to the gym – because you really don’t need to go to the gym or spend a lot of time in the gym in order to execute an effective HIIT session. Time is money and anyone with a busy schedule knows the importance of time. So if you can save time and potentially burn more calories from a shorter workout instead of a lengthy cycle or run – you are already one step ahead!
- It’s good for you! You burn more fat
HIIT not only saves you time but is extremely effective for weight loss. Now, if you’re worried about losing your gains – don’t be, HIIT may help maintain muscle mass whilst simultaneously burning fat compared to traditional (low intensity steady state) cardiovascular activity. Not only does HIIT reduce subcutaneous fat, but the muscle sparing nature of the exercise may promote muscle tone and strength, allowing for an increased metabolic rate for an extended period of time – even after completing the training session. This means more calories expended! . The intensity of the workout forces your cardiovascular system to adapt and may ultimately improve overall metabolic health – reduced blood pressure, cholesterol, lower blood sugar levels, and other risk factors associated with heart disease.
- A HIIT workout can be performed anywhere
Now, just because we are currently in lockdown and unable to access the gym or equipment doesn’t mean you can’t perform a HIIT workout. Bodyweight exercises such as push-ups, burpees, jump squats and lunges can be just as effective as weighted movements and can be performed virtually anywhere, and at any time. However, that’s not to say you can’t incorporate weights and machinery into you HIIT workout if they are available, but equipment is not essential. .
The cons of HIIT
- Safety first! HIIT is not for everyone
HIIT training may, however, not be the best option for everyone. The intense nature of the activity may be risky for anyone with underlying medical conditions, and it’s best to have somewhat of a fitness track record in order to safely partake in this type of activity. If you are just beginning and not used to exercising, or suffer from cardiovascular problems, maybe sit this one out as HIIT can lead to undue stress on one’s heart. It is recommended to get cleared by your GP or healthcare professional before starting a new or unfamiliar training regime.
- HIIT can cause dizziness
If you are alternating between standing and sitting at high-level speeds, your blood pressure can drop rather drastically, which can cause dizziness. If this does happen, take a break and only continue when you feel ready to do so.
- HIIT can leave you muscles feeling sore and there is an increased risk of injury
While a HIIT session is quick, you are working a much higher level of intensity which can lead to you overexerting yourself which can then lead to muscle injury and sprains. Because HIIT is generally high-impact and explosive in nature, you can also run the risk of injury if you’re moving at a fast speed and/or your form is incorrect. Always make sure that you maintain the appropriate form when executing the activity and if you find yourself unsure, consult with an experienced professional. .
HIIT is without a doubt one of the best ways to lose some extra weight and improve one’s overall fitness. In most cases, the pros outweigh the cons, and HIIT is a great way to lose that stubborn fat and become leaner, fitter and healthier.